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Why a mandatory gender studies requirement is a bad idea, even for liberals

It’s not every day that the editors of a major campus newspaper oppose the creation of a lefty graduation requirement.

Yet the editorial board of The Highlander at the University of California-Riverside makes a good case for why even a well-intentioned requirement is counterproductive.

The impetus for the editorial is the student government’s reaffirmation of support for a gender studies requirement for incoming freshmen (in other words, not applicable to anyone currently serving).

It is the four-year pet project of a former senator, Summer Shafer, who wants to make UC-Riverside the first in the university system to mandate gender studies. The academic senate has been “pushing it back every single year,” Shafer told the student senate before its vote to reaffirm its 2014 support.

The editors make both practical and moral arguments against the proposal.

In contrast to Shafer’s claim that there are “hundreds” of courses that would satisfy the so-called breadth requirement, the editors say there’s a “high chance” students will have to add an unrelated class to the “already significant laundry list” of mandated courses:

There is also no guarantee that the academic senate will approve of Shafer’s plan as presented, so if any changes do occur, the implementation of this proposal may be such that far fewer classes will actually qualify for the requirement. This, of course, would threaten students’ ability to graduate on time.

It’s also “unfair” and pointless to force students with contrary, deeply held beliefs to take gender studies:

For students who are religious or conservative (or both), the material that would be taught in a gender studies course is going to be incompatible with their beliefs. … Furthermore, such an inherently liberal-leaning class is likely to be perceived as a form of propaganda or indoctrination on behalf of the liberal-leaning administration that would be charged with approving this requirement.

Ultimately, a 10-week class on gender (or any other subject that is required as a breadth course but is not actually helpful for one’s major) is not going to really change one’s beliefs on the matter.

The editors foresee that this requirement will turn into an “educational echo chamber” where only students who are already educated on gender studies “will get anything out of it.”

A more practical option is “a series of modules” on gender studies that students must take before they can register for classes, which would also provide a “consistent narrative,” the editorial says.

Either way, a gender studies mandate would only “flatter the liberal administration (and the liberal student body) without accounting for the wishes of a critical minority on campus, and it is highly naive to not realize that many students will simply tune out the positive message with their earbuds.”

These student journalists clearly have a better grasp on human nature that Summer Shafer.

Read the editorial and the previous coverage.

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